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Oliveira launches campaign for western Massachusetts State Senate seat

State Rep. Jake Oliveira, a Democrat from Ludlow, is running for a seat in the Massachusetts Senate
Oliveira campaign
State Rep. Jake Oliveira, a Democrat from Ludlow, is running for a seat in the Massachusetts Senate

Ludlow Democrat is running in the Hampden, Hampshire, Worcester District

First-term Massachusetts State Representative Jake Oliveira is looking to move up to the State Senate.

The Democrat from Ludlow has launched a campaign for the seat being given up by State Senator Eric Lesser, who is one of five Democrats competing for the nomination for lieutenant governor.

Oliveira will be running in the new Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester District, which was created as part of the redistricting that took place for the 2022 election.

WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Oliveira.

Tuthill: As a first term state representative, why do you want to make this move to the State Senate? Here reasons

Oliveira: I am number one, you know, I'm proud of the accomplishments that I've had in just a short time in the house, including bringing back millions over $3 million of direct aid and earmark projects within my district for infrastructure and for economic development, but also some of the statewide achievements I've achieved in the last year including the funding and passage of bill that I had filed, that basically pumped in 10s of millions of dollars in our public colleges and universities for scholarship programs, and also $5 million. That was secured in the ARPA budget for higher education, mental health. But even though I'm first term member of the statehouse, I'm no stranger to Beacon Hill, and no stranger to local government politics, spent 12 years as a school committee member in Ludlow. For years as a representative town meeting member. I also spent, you know, over a decade working in government relations for our state universities, up on Beacon Hill advocating for the interests of our public colleges and universities, but also on the Senate side. And in the legislature. It's about building relationships. And I actually worked for the now current Ways and Means chair on the Senate side, Senator Mike Rodrigues, I actually worked on the campaign's early on when she was first elected and senate president Karen Spilka. So I know as a House member, I can do a lot to help out our region. But I know building upon my nearly 20 years of experience coupled with work up on Beacon Hill for leaders in the state senate, I can do very well for Western Massachusetts, as a member of the Senate,

Tuthill: What's your platform? What are the specific issues you're going to be advocating for if you're if you're elected?

Oliveira: It's about bringing back good jobs to Western Massachusetts, and investing in things that grow us economically. So investing in education, I was proud as a school committee member to be working to pass the student Opportunity Act, which is going to be pumping in 10s of 10s of millions of dollars into the Chicopee and Springfield Public Schools, which are in our which is in the state senate district, but also working on growing vocational educational opportunities, making sure we break down barriers, so students have access to the technology and the skills needed for the 21st century, and also investing in local infrastructure and projects. So roads and bridges, chapter 90 funding, but also investing in some of that hidden infrastructure, our water and sewer system, which are badly needed of resources and reinvestment, making sure that we focus in on on our on the environment as well. You know, Springfield is, you know, a one or two on the asthma capital of the United States, we need to build a green future and a green economy here in Western Massachusetts, that's not only beneficial economically for our region, but also was important to reducing greenhouse emissions that are causing some of the some of the illnesses and the asthma rates within our region. So those are some of the areas I'd like to focus in on. But as a member of the legislature, I've, I've also focused in on helping our seniors, prescription drug prices, health care issues, those are all things that are important as a state senator to focus in on to make sure Western Massachusetts has a strong voice, and a collaborative voice that can work with partners on the House side and on the Senate side, to speak as one voice for our region to fight for Western Massachusetts.

Tuthill: So the kind of meat and potatoes, economic issues are what's central to your platform?

Oliveira: Well, it's always been, you know, having having grown up in Western Massachusetts and have been here for generations. My family story is also important to me, and all of those issues, touch on what makes our region a great place to live. You know, my great grandparents came from Portugal and Poland and settled in three of actually the communities that are in the district, Ludlow, my hometown, Springfield, and also Palmer. And you know, they were helped by a lot of the investment we made into people post World War Two that kind of grew our middle class society. And so I saw my family firsthand. And I want to provide those opportunities that my family had for creating generational wealth in our region, but also investing in our region as a whole. Because when we, when we speak as one voice for our region, we can actually bring resources we can bring attention and we can bring focus back to Western Massachusetts.

Tuthill: How would you describe your political ideology?

Oliveira: Well, as someone who is is a actual proud Millennial? I will say that I am a member of the Progressive Caucus and will in the lead later. But all of my all of the things that I've pushed as a member of the legislature have been essential to growing the middle class and helping working families, for our region. And so how I describe myself politically as a practical progressive that wants to get results, and bring back resources, bringing back talent, and also bring, you know, Boston a little bit closer to Western Massachusetts. You know, Senator Lester has been a tremendous advocate for our region, and has really, you know, put on the radar screen, as I like to call it and west east rail, high speed reliable west east rail, it's so important. And as a member of the State Senate, I will be focused in on to continue to make sure that we bring that to a reality for our region.

Tuthill: You mentioned that you're going to be running for what is essentially the seat that Senator Lessor is giving up, but it's but it's a new district as a result of the redistricting process that that took place to account for the population shifts in the in the that were that were recorded in the 2020 census. So you're picking up a large portion of a large portion of the city of Springfield, roughly maybe about a quarter of the city of Springfield is in the new is in the new district, and then it stretches, you know, all the way out into Worcester County. How familiar are you with this with this area?

Oliveira: Well, you know, I'm having grown up in this area, my entire life, a fourth generation Western Mass resident, and, you know, having family that's lived in three of the communities in the district, the district is changing a bit. It's picking up South Hadley, from South Hadley to war in which is on the other side of Palmer, you know, my mom's family actually hails from the Palmer area. And you know, it's fairly close and geography with and relationships with with Warren. And then obviously, you know, being a fourth generation Ludlow resident, even though you've made friends with people throughout the region, but what I've realized is that, in the 12 communities in this new senate district, there are unique challenges for each each of those communities. And I'm just looking forward to getting to know so many of the local elected officials and the residents within this within this larger district. But having represented for the largest communities in this new senate district, wide, low Belchertown, part of Springfield and part of Chicopee. You know, I've, I've had the opportunity to work with legislators and local elected officials from throughout the area. And I'm very comfortable in each one of these communities. I'm not one of these people that needs a map to find any any point in this district, because I know it so well, because I've been here my whole life. And I've spent time working as a local elected official working with neighbors and each one of these communities. So I feel very comfortable in each of those 1212 communities. I will say that the new senate district is reducing Springfield a bit. It's actually only just about one Ward now in Springfield. So six precincts in Ward seven and two in Ward six, which together as a precinct, which is 1/8 of the city now. So it is a little bit smaller on the Springfield side. But you know, it's still such an important part of our region, you know, we rise and fall with the success of the city of Springfield. And that's why as a as a member of the State Senate, and as a member of the House by Springfield is so important for the economic vitality of our region, and I plan to be a strong voice for the city and for all the surrounding communities up on Beacon Hill.

Tuthill: You agree I take it then that Springfield should have two state senators, because there was some discussion during the redistricting process that maybe Springfield would only have a single a single senator.

Oliveira: I think it's important to have, you know, as many you know, representatives and senators, as you have that speak on behalf of the region. You know, Senator Gomez has been a tremendous advocate for Springfield. And so I'm looking forward to partnering with him, as I did in in as a House member to make sure that we keep Springfield front and center in our discussion as one of the Commonwealth's largest gateway cities. You know, Springfield is essential to the economic vitality of the region. I'm looking forward to working with Senator Gomez to be a strong voice and partner up to support the city of Springfield in the State Senate.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.